Tom McCarroll was raised in a typical Irish-Catholic family in Tamaqua, where it was not unusual to celebrate your heritage, be involved in the community, and lend a helping hand to others.
Those qualities set McCarroll, 57, aside when it came time for the Panther Valley Irish-American Association (PVIAA) to select its 2010 Shamrock Award recipient.
"He's a good guy," said Bill O'Gurek Jr. of Summit Hill, association president, adding, "It (McCarroll's selection) was unanimous among the Recipient Committee members (O'Gurek, Emmett McCall, Lansford; John Tracy, Tamaqua; Joe Conahan, Coaldale; and Michael Crampsie, Summit Hill). Tom was a pretty easy choice because of all he's done in the community. Everyone felt he is deserving."
McCarroll will be the toast of the town on Wednesday, March 17, when he is officially dubbed "Irishman of the Year" by the association, which will honor him during its 63rd Annual Banquet. The event will be held an The Grand Ballroom of Kelly's Irish Pub, Lansford, beginning with a cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., and followed by the dinner and program at 6:30.
"My father and mother were proud, proud Irishmen, especially my mother," said McCarroll. "St. Patty's Day was always her day of the year. They always instilled in us the thought of being proud to be Irish and to never forget your heritage."
When he was asked to be the 2010 honoree, McCarroll said, "I couldn't even talk. I never thought I'd be considered for an award such as this, so, for me, this is an amazing honor."
Since his days as a three-sport athlete at Tamaqua Area High School, McCarroll has always been involved in athletics, as well as the Tamaqua fire service. At TAHS, he was a member of the Blue Raiders' 1970 Hughie McGeehan League baseball champions, graduating that year, as well as two years later from Thaddeus Stevens Trade School.
He coached in the Tamaqua Little League for 26 years (1973-99), in the Tamaqua Knee-Hi program, and is a former assistant baseball coach at Tamaqua and Marian high schools.
McCarroll is a former president of the Tamaqua Softball League, and played the sport from the time he got out of school until three years ago. He proudly will tell you he is the father of an All-American football player (son Tom, Colgate), as well as two other sons who were starters in Marian Colt sports.
Currently, McCarroll is a member of the East End Fire Company, Tamaqua, where he is head of the House Committee. He also belongs to the West Penn Rod and Gun Club, Tamaqua American Legion, Schuylkill County Notre Dame Club and St. Jerome Catholic Church, Tamaqua.
The honoree is also a former president of the Anthracite Notre Dame Club and PVIAA; former vice president of the Tamaqua Pool League and the East End Fire Company; and a past president of Local 1808, United Garment Workers.
McCarroll is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with the disease in 1999, and, since then, underwent several surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy treatments. "I've been involved in a lot of things, but when the doctors told me I had cancer, it turned my philosophy of life around," he said. "Being around and involved in sports is great, but what's more important to me now is to be able to do more things for other people."
Raising money for the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society, for instance, is one of McCarroll's objectives. "(Despite the cancer) I'm still here, so I want to help," he said.
Through the East End Fire Company, he has been involved in helping to raise thousands of dollars for ACS. In fact, in 2008, the unit presented McCarroll the "Cancer Fighters Award" for raising and bringing cancer awareness to the forefront.
Off work for more than 10 years because of the illness, McCarroll only recently returned to work at Majestic Fire Apparel, Lehighton.
He is a son of Rose Marie (Tracy) McCarroll of Tamaqua and the late John McCarroll, and is married for the former Michelle Rother, daughter of Joan Rother of Tamaqua and the late Frank Rother.
Tom is one of 10 children, his siblings including: Jerome, Clem, Mark and Sharon Goho, all of Tamaqua; Rose, wife of Paul Warner, Linda, wife of Steve Naylor, and Frank, all of West Penn Township; Jim of Cresco; and John, deceased.
In addition to sons Tom of Mahoning Valley, Tim, at home, and Dustin, serving with the Air Force in Germany; he has a daughter Kristen, at home; and two stepsons, Rick Kunkel in California and Adam Kunkel of Beaver Meadows.
Tickets for the affair can be obtained from the following association members: Summit Hill, Bob Crampsie; Lansford, Emmett McCall; Coaldale, Bob Ames; and Tamaqua, McCarroll.